State Department of Health (DOH) figures show black men in the Dayton area are being disproportionately impacted by HIV, prompting officials to call for improvements in prevention outreach. Of the 84 new HIV cases in Montgomery, Greene, and Butler counties in 2009, 38 were among black men. African Americans represent just 13.6 percent of the total population of these counties, data indicate.
The higher HIV infection rates among black men are likely due to a lack of awareness about safe sex, a misguided belief that the virus is no longer a threat, homophobia, and substance abuse, according to health officials.
Natalie Shaw, coordinator of the youth and testing programs for the Dayton-based AIDS Resource Center Ohio, said the stigma of homosexuality that lingers in the black community causes gay and bisexual black men not to discuss their relationships. Failure to communicate can leave people ignorant about the importance of practicing safe sex, she said. "When they are sexually active, they are less likely to have the competence and skill level to protect themselves," she explained.
Male-to-male contact is the primary route of HIV transmission, accounting for 37 of the 63 cases among males in Montgomery, Green, and Butler. The route of infection for 21 men has not been determined, DOH said.
Homophobia can have mental health consequences, which can lead to risk taking, said Bill Tiedemann, program administrator for DOH's division of HIV, STD, adult viral hepatitis, and TB prevention and control. "Bullying, harassing, family disapproval, social isolation, and sexual violence are pervasive" among LGBT youth, he noted.
Tiedemann said DOH funding seeks to "follow the epidemic," and focus on testing, treatment and community-building strategies.